Business leaders can agree that last year has marked a turning point in the work from home trend. Even before the COVID-19 shutdown, remote work had gained some considerable traction. Yet, in 2020, it became the norm for millions of employees across the globe. Providing some remote working tips and strategies for employees and leaders alike has become paramount. And this is especially true for those that didn’t have remote work in place before.
Remote working tips
It’s likely that many now-remote positions won’t be phased out even after the pandemic. An estimated 83 percent of office workers still want to continue remotely at least once a week, notes a PwC survey. Also, 55 percent of managers assume that most of their workforce will be remote once COVID-19 is no longer a threat.
However, in spite of this increased demand for remote work, only 28 percent of surveyed respondents indicate that working from home has made them more productive. The majority feel that barriers such as a lack of structure, resources, connection, or project management reduce their productivity.
If your team has gone remote within the past several months, and you are in need of some strategies to keep them productive, consider whether these strategies can be supportive of them and you.
Agree on boundaries and expectations from the start
Since remote work is more flexible than an office, it can be harder to maintain a nine-to-five schedule. There are perks to this, especially when balancing job and family commitments. However, it can also interfere with professional boundaries. For example, answering emails before bed or logging off later than you might if you were in an office, leading to burnout and stress.
And when employees are stressed, they’re less productive. To help yourself and your employees minimize this challenge, establish clear expectations as a team about when and how to connect with each other.
Boundaries are most effective when communicated across-the-board, so Shane Snow, the founder of Contently, suggests answering the following questions for your team:
- What hours am I available, and are there any blocks of time I cannot be reached?
- Which method of communication do I prefer (chat, email, phone, text)?
- How much advance notice do I need for team meetings or real-time conversations?
Of course, there are more expectations you could introduce in your framework, but don’t over-complicate it.
Keep all data and projects organized and accessible
When asked to name which factors made a strong virtual team, the majority of respondents in a CultureWizard poll cited the ability to share information, collaborate, and remain organized. For this reason, it’s essential to invest in a centralized online communications platform. Here, all workers, regardless of their location, can communicate with each other. They can access and disseminate the relevant files, data, and other materials they need to manage projects efficiently.
This also makes it substantially easier for team members to collaborate on assignments despite the physical distance, and for you to both allocate and monitor the progress of their workflow.
Your internal communication tool may also have file sharing and storing capabilities that you can tap into without onboarding a new process.
Use communication tools to bridge affinity distance
One of the main hurdles that remote teams face is affinity distance. That’s a sense of disconnect from the organizational trust, values, and interdependence.
To counteract this affinity distance, Erica Dhawan, author of Get Big Things Done, and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Chief Talent Scientist at ManpowerGroup, suggest in their Harvard Business Review article that you need to create an open, inclusive, reliable, and consistent flow of dialogue with these strategies:
- Use video when possible, so coworkers can respond to each other’s facial expressions and body language cues.
- Unify all the communication rhythms, so each person knows what your shorthand jargon means or when the weekly all-hands call starts.
- Be clear, efficient, and concise in your communication, but not so succinct that your message is incomplete or hard to interpret.
- Resist the urge to blast employees with the same information on various platforms.
- Build time into meetings for the team to socialize and informally converse with each other since relationships boost collaboration.
Keeping your team engaged to the company life also helps a lot against affinity distance. For example, here at 4PSA, we use our Hubgets Team Board to keep updated and to share with our teammates what we’ve been up to. Likewise, group chats based on topic, called Topics in Hubgets, streamline communication for various subjects of interest, teams and projects. And this virtual watercooler has truly helped us feel closer during this difficult time.
So you see, there are many ways to keep your organizational culture alive through the pandemic and beyond. Just pay attention to the signs and adapt fast.
Provide accountability but avoid micro-management
There is a difference between routinely touching base with team members and keeping too close tabs on their work activities. You want to be in the loop and ensure all deadlines are reached but avoid micro-management, which hinders productivity. According to Wade Foster CEO of Zapier, there is a way to find a balance between accountability and micro-management:
“Managers should set clear expectations each week of what their priorities are and what determines success. There should be regular check-ins and systems for building trust and accountability […] These processes and rituals make sure the team is aligned. It becomes a cycle of momentum which builds across the company.”
Boost your team’s productivity
The remote work trend is unlikely to lose the traction it’s gained anytime in the near future.
As a leader, you must resource your team for maximum productivity. Whether they’re working virtually for the next few months or on a longer time frame, they can still thrive and remain united with your guidance and support. Follow these remote working tips to empower your team in this difficult time.